Written by Tomson Phiri
Guns, mud, mosquitoes and soaring heat punctuate the days in South Sudan. Pushing through it all, a fleet of World Food Program (WFP) trucks snakes along the dusty roads.
This delivery is different from others though. The convoy has travelled only a couple of hours to reach isolated communities in need – instead of the normal week-long journey from the Juba base.
This success was possible thanks to innovative thinking. Known as the “fall-forward” approach, WFP’s logistics team came up with a plan – establishing remote hubs and pre-positioning food, trucks and equipment deep inside the jungles of South Sudan.
Reducing transit times
To make it happen, staff in the Country Office, Regional Bureau and Headquarters worked day and night to develop and implement the concept, which allowed for much shorter transit times from hubs with prepositioned food stocks, all the way down to the Final Distribution Points.
“I am proud of our team of heroes who make even the most impossible missions to be possible,” says Peter Schaller, Chief of Logistics in South Sudan. “They are committed to working against all odds, to the point of travelling with spades to dig out trucks stuck in one-metre deep mud just to deliver food.”
A few weeks ago, WFP South Sudan’s hard work was recognized on a global level when the team was awarded the prestigious 2016 International Best Transport Achievement Award for its fleet management project in South Sudan, given at the recent Annual Fleet Forum Conference in Dublin, Ireland.
As part of its supply chain delivery strategy, WFP increased its transport capacity, set up new fleet hubs and opened main corridors, thereby reducing reliance on otherwise expensive forms of delivering assistance.
In February 2015, WFP acquired more than 100 new trucks and 16 trailers – workhorses ideal for even the toughest terrains. This has increased the capacity for overland deliveries and decreased dependency on air transport.
In South Sudan alone, WFP now manages and maintains over 130 operational trucks. Not only does WFP provide transport solutions, it also maintains more than 500 pieces of equipment, including providing daily services and repairs for over 80 generators. The services have since been extended to external clients, including UNDP and WHO, with over 70 and 50 light vehicles respectively.
Logistics hubs added
In an effort to reduce the load on Juba as the sole logistics hub, WFP established additional fleet hubs in Bor, Wau, Wunrok and Rumbek, spreading the trucking capacity across the country and allowing for relief supplies to be as close as possible to people in need. This has reduced the lead time, allowing WFP to easily take advantage of short windows of opportunities to perform last-leg deliveries.
Towards the end of 2015, road transport had come to a complete standstill on the western parts of the country due to insecurity. WFP started using a convoy system using both its own fleet trucks and commercial contractors merged at strategic points along the way. The WFP-owned trucks also led the convoys when implementing cross-line operations between Government and opposition-held areas around the country, resulting in the flow of both commercial and humanitarian cargo along key routes.
“This award is an excellent recognition of the ingenuity and amazing efforts of our staff to swiftly move food supplies where they are needed, in an extremely challenging environment,” said Joyce Luma, WFP Representative and Country Director in South Sudan.
“Our fleet teams have to deal with bad roads that get worse in the rainy season. They face harassment and violence. But despite all these issues they continue to risk their lives to bring urgently needed food to people facing hunger.”
Launched in 2012, the Best Transport Achievement Award is organized by Fleet Forum with sponsorship from shipping and logistics giant UPS, and recognizes the fleet manager and the organization that is an inspiring example for others.
The award is presented to the humanitarian organization that most exemplifies excellence in one or more fleet-management areas, such as road safety, fleet safety, environmental impact and cost efficiency. The award-winning project must be replicable by others, and should demonstrate among other things professionalism, innovation and strong, tangible results.
Tomson is a Supply Chain Communications Officer based at WFP’s headquarters in Rome.